Saying YES to the YES project

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Social Protection,The Hon. Volda Lawrence, addresses the gathering at the Launch of the USAID/Eastern and Southern Caribbean Youth Empowerment Services (YES).

USAID Youth Empowerment Services launched

MINISTER of Social Protection, The Hon Volda Lawrence, amidst fanfare on Monday launched the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Eastern and Southern

U.S. Ambassador to Guyana, Perry Holloway, addresses the gathering at the launch of the “YES” Project.
U.S. Ambassador to Guyana, Perry Holloway, addresses the gathering at the launch of the “YES” Project.

Caribbean Youth Empowerment Services (YES) in Guyana.
The venue was Cara Lodge, Quamina Street, with a keenly enthusiastic and delighted gathering of stakeholders present, including: Minister of Public Security, Khemraj Ramjattan; Members of the diplomatic community, including U.S. Ambassador, Perry Holloway; Deputy UNDP Resident Representative, Ms. Shabnam Mallick; USAID Mission Director, Christopher Cushing; members of the NGO Community; members of the private sector; Youth Representatives and other invitees.

The Programme
The YES Programme lays the foundation for USAID/UNDP partnership for the next four years in the Eastern and Southern Caribbean on youth and citizen security and was rolled out at a cost of US$64 M.
As part of a larger goal of creating a safer, more prosperous Caribbean Community, the USAID Eastern and Southern Caribbean, designed the YES Project to reduce Youth involvement in crime and violence in target communities in the Eastern and Southern Communities.

In July 2016, UNDP signed a cooperative agreement with USAID to implement the “Strengthening Evidence-Based Decision Making for Citizen Security in the Caribbean – ‘CARISECURE’ Project, one of three projects under its YES Programme.
Mallik said through implementation of the CARISECURE project, UNDP will work with the Government of Guyana to improve the quality, comparability, reliability and use of data and national information management systems to inform citizen security programming. November 30th is set for commencement of CARISECURE.
The project seeks to increase the capacity of regional bodies, national governments and community stakeholders to reduce the risk factors that drive youth crimes, violence and victimisation and to strengthen protective factors that build resiliency, said Youth Programme Management Specialist, Ryssa Brathwaite. She said the countries benefitting initially are: Guyana, St. Lucia and St. Kitts and Nevis.

An enthused Deputy UNDP Resident Representative, Ms. Shabnam Mallick, speaking on behalf of Resident Representative, Mikiko Tanaka said: “We at UNDP are particularly delighted to partner with USAID as they roll out their four-year development assistance package, totalling US $64 Million to the Eastern and Southern Caribbean.”
Ms. Mallick said that the package focuses on a number of areas important to UNDP, including working with countries to combat the challenges faced by climate change, HIV/.AIDS and reducing crime and violence, with a focus on improving the lives of the most vulnerable and marginalised populations, and notably youth at risk.

She said the U.S. Government’s generous support will play a critical role in helping CARICOM states make progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and targets by 2030, and in responding to the needs of adolescents and youths across the region.
She concluded on a note that, “The YES programme being launched is a continued demonstration of USAID’s efforts to work with countries in the region to live prosperous lives, but also to contribute to more stable, peaceful and just societies.

Solid U.S. support
United States Ambassador to Guyana, Perry Holloway, on his own behalf and on behalf of his government, expressed pleasure at being able to participate in the launch of the project here in Guyana.
He said “The U.S. Government is pleased to continue its many years of work in the area of citizen security here in Guyana, in support of the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative’s (CBSI) goal to create a safer, more prosperous Caribbean Community.”

Ambassador Holloway said that Guyana is a significant beneficiary under the $64 Million four-year Caribbean Regional YES initiative, which builds on previous gains made in promoting youth development under the very well known Skills and Knowledge for Youth Employment (SKYE) project, adding that the YES Project also represents a continuation of [our] partnership over the years in youth development, improving the business environment, climate change adaptation, and HIV/AIDS prevention.
“The success of YES Project will depend on the involvement of a broad cross-section of partners with a commitment to building a safer society. This includes the government, police, justice sector, civil society, community members and donors,” the Ambassador emphasised, affirming that each group will have a significant role to play over the next four years of this project.
The net result will be that YES’s legacy will be strengthened agencies, non-governmental entities and community-based organisations that support youth and create more resilient families with young people, who are successfully re-integrated into society, according to the Ambassador.
Other outcomes of the project will be: to build relationships with community members centred on mutual trust; develop partnerships that create opportunities to empower and engage youth, such as expanded education and links to employment and support for the Granger administration. That thrust is, to move away from a more punitive approach in the juvenile justice system toward a focus on rehabilitation and re-integration into society, Ambassador Holloway said.

“Each role is important, and collectively supports and strengthens existing efforts to create safer communities, a safer Guyana and a safer Caribbean Region,” the ambassador emphasised.
Noting that the presence of those assembled signals their interest in working together to achieve the aforementioned goals, the U.S. Ambassador declared: “The U.S. Government, through USAID, welcomes your willingness to partner with us in this important work,” adding, “your involvement is central to ensuring that we build upon and sustain success under the YES Project.”
Ambassador Holloway thanked the stakeholders for their efforts and support, and on a positive note concluded: “I look forward to celebrating our joint successes, meeting with those impacted by the project, and hearing about how their lives have changed for the better – toward the good life.”

Saying “Yes!” to YES
Meanwhile, Minister of Social Protection, The Hon Volda Lawrence, sounded a resounding “Yes!” pledging her support for the YES Project. Her remarks came just minutes ahead of Ambassador Holloway’s comments in which he enthusiastically volunteered that the Project be named: “Say Yes! To YES. This gesture suggested that the minister and the ambassador were in accord.

Said Minister Lawrence, “I want to reinforce the analogy that I began with… We say with one accord a loud “Yes!” to the YES Project, designed by the USAID/ESC,” to loud applause.
Minister Lawrence said that the Ministry of Social Protection is particularly happy for this intervention in Guyana, because not only does it lend support to its mandate which includes the protection, well-being and empowerment of our youths, but especially since there is a high incidence of youth involvement in crime and violence at this juncture in many of our communities.

She expressed the hope that as the agency focuses on capacity-building of the Family, the Community and the Resilience of Youth, in an effort to reduce crime and violence, that as many agencies and organisations will take the opportunity not to show solidarity, as well as participate actively in this campaign, to dissuade our youths from the path of criminal activity, and lure them onto the road of entrepreneurial success and empowerment.

Assuring the USAID/ESC Agency of her ministry’s commitment to the project, she expressed appreciation to that body for the foresight and timeliness of sister states in the Eastern and Southern Caribbean, where youth involvement in crime and violence are so rife.”
Minister Lawrence said too, that the initiative was extremely important for the Caribbean, as it supports the efforts of the community to respond positively to the Sustainable Development Goals of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda and Pillar Three of the CBSI. She affirmed that empowerment of youths should be prioritised on all our national agendas, submitting that it is critical that the barriers be examined and strategies be developed, so that national governments can achieve the targets of the SDGs, in promoting social justice and in supporting youth crime and violence-prevention efforts.